What is The Best Microsoft Surface? FOR SOME OF the best Windows hardware on the market, look no further than Microsoft’s Surface brand. Best known for innovative, tablet-like designs, Microsoft has expanded its Surface line over the years and now offers a full family of computers, from a standard laptop to a giant desktop.
It’s hard to find a PC maker today that doesn’t ape the Surface’s kickstand-packing, detachable-keyboard-rocking design. It’s also hard to find a nicer Windows experience than that offered by the Surface. The problem is one of choice. With such a diverse family of premium computers, which is best for your needs? We’ve sorted through the options and found the best Surface for everyone.
Be sure to read our other buying guides for more, including the Best Laptops, Best Cheap Laptops, Best MacBooks, and our tips on how to choose a laptop.
Updated July 2023: We’ve added our impressions of the Surface Pro 9’s battery life and updated pricing.
What is The Best Microsoft Surface?
The good news is that it’s not as complicated as it first seems, and, to help you figure out the differences between them all, we’ve provided a quick summary of all the Surface devices at the bottom, as well as a bit more detail on our experiences testing them.
It’s the perfect time to pick up a Surface device for going back to school or college, and you’ll find the best models right here. Just so you know, this lineup doesn’t include the business-orientated Surface Hub interactive whiteboard, or the Android-based Surface Duo 2, but you’ll find all the other devices below.
Should You Wait to Buy?
Yes. If you want the newest version of Surface devices, we suggest holding off. Microsoft released the Surface Pro 9, Surface Laptop 5, and Surface Studio 2+ in October 2022. Meanwhile, the Surface Go 3, Surface Laptop Go 2, and Surface Laptop Studio came out almost two years ago. So, it’s likely Microsoft will be launching next-generation versions of some of these products, if not all, within the next few months.
The Surface Tablets: The Original 2-in-1 Detachables
Most people think of Windows as an operating system for laptops and desktops, but the OS is actually much more versatile. Microsoft created the Surface tablet as a showcase for how Windows can power touch-screen devices without integrated keyboards. And in many cases, it works splendidly.
That’s certainly true of the Surface tablet that will attract most mainstream buyers. The Surface Pro has been a frequent Editors’ Choice winner that represents the best of detachable Windows tablets. At its core, the Surface Pro is a sleek 13-inch touch-screen tablet that can be used either by itself or with an optional detachable keyboard.
The Surface Pro’s signature physical feature is an integrated kickstand with a fully adjustable hinge. It allows you to recline the screen through 165 degrees of range, from standing at attention to nearly flat. It’s also a showcase for the new Windows 11 operating system and works with a new, larger stylus, the Slim Pen 2.
In 2021, we lauded the Surface Pro 8 as the best iteration yet, and the 2-in-1 detachable to beat. Unfortunately, the Surface Pro landscape got a bit trickier to navigate in 2022. Microsoft unveiled the Pro 9 in October 2022 in two different flavors, one based on the latest Intel CPUs and one with an Arm-based SQ3 chip.
New highly touted features include 5G support, smart camera technology, and super-long battery life, but those are only available in the Surface Pro 9 SQ3 version, which is the model we reviewed first. We next reviewed the Surface Pro 9 Intel version, which sees advanced performance with its 12th Gen “Alder Lake” chips, but none of those new features. The headphone jack was also removed from both models.
The Surface Laptop Family: Microsoft’s Most Powerful Surfaces
While the Surface Pro 9 can potentially do everything a laptop can, not everyone needs a laptop replacement. So a few years ago, Microsoft decided to add conventional laptops with clamshell-style hinges to the Surface family. Now in its fifth generation, the Surface Laptop 5 combines elements of the Windows tablet experience (chiefly the excellent touch-enabled display) and the laptop experience (a full keyboard for comfortable typing, more powerful processors, advanced features, and more connectivity).
The Surface Laptop 5 is available in either 13.5-inch or 15-inch screen sizes, and like many Surface tablets, it comes in multiple color options. The larger Laptop 5, which is what we reviewed for 2022, comes in fewer colors than its smaller counterpart, however, offered only in platinum and black.
The Surface Laptop 5 is also rather expensive for the components; its sleek build comes at a price premium. Similarly priced competitors will get you superior CPUs, OLED screen options, and even a GPU option. Like the Surface Pro 9, a decent configuration will be north of $1,200, and a well-equipped model is closer to $2,000. In short, it’s a fine all-rounder laptop with a high-end build, but you’ll be overpaying a bit for the core components.
As with the Surface Go tablet, Microsoft also takes some of the best parts of the Surface Laptop experience and distills them into a smaller, cheaper package: the Surface Laptop Go 2. This device has a smaller 12-inch screen, but it also comes with a far more palatable starting price of just $549 and ideal configurations in the $800 range.
A new model, the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 3, was just released, but it brings few changes. While the latest model has the same 12-inch size and looks nearly identical, Microsoft has bumped up the price. Microsoft boosted the basic specs, but not enough, likely putting off budget shoppers with the new base price of $799.
At the other end of the price spectrum, Microsoft offers the Surface Laptop Studio, a flagship Windows 11-native device aimed at creative professionals (not to be confused with the Surface Studio, which we’ll get to below). It advances the state of the art of mobile computing for creative pros in a big way, with a haptic touchpad and a 120Hz screen that pulls forward so you can lay it completely flat on top of the keyboard. It’s not particularly powerful, and it’s pricey, but it’s still impressive.
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